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Let me be the first to admit that I was wrong – the 2022 Toyota GR 86 is indeed better with more power. Egg, meet face. After spending time in Toyota's updated two-door at New York’s Monticello Motor Club and the surrounding roads, it's obvious the company hasn't fussed up last year's formula by adding oomph. In fact, Toyota made this car much, much better.

By swapping the previous car’s lethargic 2.0-liter engine for a larger 2.4-liter unit (sorry, still no turbo), the GR 86 improves by 23 horsepower and 28 pound-feet over its predecessor. Total horsepower now sits at 228 and max torque is a modest 184 lb-ft. But it's the application, not the numbers alone, that makes all the difference.

Torque peaks at a generous 3,700 rpm – a huge improvement over last year's car, which didn't hit until 6,400 rpm. Toyota even bests the torquey Mazda Miata and its 4,000 rpm peak. If you're comparing it to turbocharged upmarket alternatives like the Porsche Cayman (1,950 rpm) and the four-cylinder Toyota Supra (1,550 rpm), sure, there's room for improvement. But the GR 86 remains in a class of its own in certain respects.

2022 Toyota GR 86 Exterior Review
2022 Toyota GR 86 Exterior Review
2022 Toyota GR 86 Exterior Review
2022 Toyota GR 86 Exterior Review

No Turbo? No Problem

This car has genuine low-end torque – finally – and it feels quick from a standstill. It only takes 6.1 seconds for the new GR 86 to hit 60 with the manual and 6.6 seconds with the automatic. Both of those figures are nearly a full second quicker than the previous model, and about on par with the lighter Mazda Miata.

Throttle response is quicker too, and power comes on with a more aggressive bite – there's no more waiting around until redline. On Monticello’s 3.6-mile circuit, the GR 86 offers more than enough torque to tackle the entire course in third gear, whereas driving the previous version around the same track that same day required a few downshifts into second to find power.

This car has genuine low-end torque – finally – and it feels quick from a standstill.

Opt for the six-speed manual and not only are you rewarded with a quicker zero-to-60 time, but also snappy, short, and supremely satisfying throws. The six-speed manual remains the gearbox to get for maximum fun, but don't discount the automatic so quickly. Toyota tweaked the box to make it quicker and more decisive, especially on the track. This six-speed auto loves to hang revs right at redline and smartly downshifts with enough pressure on the gas pedal.

Toyota improved torsional rigidity in this car, too, by about 50 percent over the previous model. The GR 86 doesn't feel that much stiffer on the road, but it's noticeably flatter on the track. The tired cliche of “go-kart–like” comes to mind, as it does when driving the Miata, but it's true. Even in the slowest corners you feel totally connected to this car, and that’s even more true with this year’s upgraded tires.

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The base GR 86 wears the same bicycle-thin Michelin Primacy HP tires (215/45) as last year. If you like to get the backend loose, stick with the standard rubber. But we prefer the new Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires (215/40) that come standard on the Premium model. The stickier Michelin rubber gives the GR 86 levels of grip we’ve never experienced in this car before.

For as fun a thing as it is to fling around a track, the GR 86 is cooperative on the road too. The steering is lighter and the suspension is a touch softer than they both were previously – this coupe doesn't crash down on broken pavement as aggressively as its predecessor did. With the base 17-inch wheels, the ride is actually acceptable as opposed to back-breaking. The 18-inch wheels and low-profile tires, obviously, are less comfy.

Quick, tactile steering and telepathic body movements make the GR 86 supremely fun to pedal up and down backroads.

But comfort still comes second to driver feel, and this car's connectedness to the pavement is unparalleled even on public roads. Quick, tactile steering and telepathic body movements make the GR 86 supremely fun to pedal up and down the backroads of upstate New York. The Premium trim, yet again, proves it's the one to get with better grip, improved style, and more safety than what's offered on the standard 86.

Opting for the base automatic gives you access to adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision warning, lane departure, and automatic high beams. But the Premium trim adds niceties like blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and automatic rear braking (with the automatic transmission equipped).

2022 Toyota GR 86 Interior Review
2022 Toyota GR 86 Interior Review
2022 Toyota GR 86 Interior Review

Sharper Image

Beyond obvious underhood upgrades, the new GR 86 looks much cleaner from a visual standpoint. Downturned headlights with standard LED accents adorn the front end, black accents on each side of the bumper house functional vents, and the big-ish front grille – like many a Toyota product – makes the fascia look more aggressive than the one it replaces.

The back end of this car is beautiful. Sharp taillight fixtures with gloss black accents extend out from the trunk lid and over the rear fender, there's a swooping ducktail spoiler (on the Premium model) that makes this car look like a pricey running shoe, and a gloss black diffuser surrounds dual exhaust tips.

If you were worried Toyota’s beloved coupe might lose some of its allure with more power (as I was), don’t.

The new GR 86 is technically larger than the one it replaces, but just barely. The overall length grows by about an inch, and the wheelbase stretches by just 0.2 inches, and there are some visible size distinctions when you put the two cars side by side. The front and rear overhangs of this new model extend out slightly further than on the previous version – but only keen eyes will be able to tell the difference.

Inside, Toyota tweaked the cabin rather than fully redesigning it. A larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system now adorns the center dash, and it's a welcomed upgrade over last year's less-than-stellar 7.0-inch screen. The graphics are cleaner and the overall layout is easier to use. There's also a new digital cluster behind the steering wheel that offers more customization and simply looks cooler than last year's analog-only setup, with a fun retro JDM retro theme.

Nicer materials like leather and Alcantara dot the dash and door panels, and leather covers the steering wheel and shift knob, while the refreshed sport buckets seats don the same materials – and they are noticeably comfier than last year's chairs. The backseats are still what we'd call “for insurance purposes only” – meaning you won't be able to sit back there for more than five minutes – but they do also get the nicer materials, which makes them acceptable in a pinch.

2022 Toyota GR 86 Exterior Review
2022 Toyota GR 86 Exterior Review

Performance Bargain

Toyota hasn't officially announced pricing for the 2022 GR 86 (we'll give it an official verdict once that's available), but the company says its new coupe will cost “under $30,000” to start. The Premium model will likely ask just over $30,000 with bigger wheels, a better interior, and some additional safety equipment. But considering all you get, this car remains the same performance bargain its predecessor was.

If you were worried Toyota’s beloved coupe might lose some of its allure with more power (as I was), don’t. The 2022 Toyota GR 86 maintains its analog charm but does so with more of everything – more grunt, more grip, and more style. It’s a strong second act for a car that was nearly perfect in the first place.

GR 86 Competitor Reviews:

2021 Toyota GR 86 Premium

Engine 2.4-Liter H4
Output 228 Horsepower / 184 Pound-Feet
Transmission Six-Speed Manual
Drive Type Rear-Wheel Drive
Speed 0-60 MPH 6.1 Seconds
Efficiency 22 City / 31 Highway / 25 Combined (est)
Weight 2,811 Pounds
Seating Capacity 4
Base Price $30,000 (est.)
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